Sunday, HBO’s smash hit epic fantasy “Game of Thrones” returns for a sixth season.
The show is at an odd point (besides ending its last season on roughly a billion different cliffhangers).
If each previous season is roughly equivalent to one book (which it isn’t quite, I know, so stop typing that angry email), this is the first season that won’t have a corresponding novel by George R.R. Martin completed before the season starts. “A Dance with Dragons,” Martin’s most recent book in the A Song of Ice and Fire cycle, was published in 2011, and Martin has said there is no way a next book, “The Winds of Winter,” will appear in 2016.
While Martin and “Thrones” showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have said some “Winter” plot elements will appear in season six, the show and book could go in radically different directions.
The following are not predictions, nor are they questions we want answered, really. This is what we wish for various characters on “Game of Thrones” and one thing we hope for the show in general.
- We hope that Jon Snow continues to know nothing…as a living human (but we are not holding our breath).
When season five ended, Jon Snow was lying on the ground, bleeding out, eyes wide open, betrayed by his men on the Watch. (His fate in “Dragons” is similarly up in the air.) If he is just grievously wounded, that would be swell (though his Wildling love Ygritte is dead). But if he’s a (very handsome) corpse, there are various magical ways he could come back to life. But one of the nice (as it were) things about “Thrones” is the extent to which the dead stay dead (Ned Stark, we will never forget you). Most depressing scenario? Snow comes back as an undead White Walker.
- We hope Sansa Stark gets to flex a bit.
When we last saw poor Sansa (and that “poor” might as well be an honorific now), she and a barely-sane Theon Greyjoy had to literally leap out of Winterfell to escape the savage Ramsay Bolton, the meanest man on television. In the trailer, there is a shot of Sansa in a cloak that screams “Queen of the North,” so here’s hoping she raises an army, maybe of Stannis’ men with Brienne of Tarth (who doesn’t know she needed rescuing) by her side, sacks Bolton and becomes queen in the North.
- We hope Ramsay Bolton is torn apart by direwolves.
The usurper in the North still has control of Winterfell but no longer has Sansa or Theon, who were basically his slaves and pretty good bargaining chips. It would be great if Sansa had his head sent to his father Roose Bolton, one of the Red Wedding’s architect’s. Look, this show makes us a little cruel.
- We hope Arya Stark becomes the badass assassin we have long been promised.
We last saw Arya blinded by one of the Faceless Men (the order of assassins she is trying to join) for killing Ser Meryn Trant because she wanted to rather than was ordered to. Odds are she gets her sight back, then we are in favor of her grabbing Needle and raining stealthy death on everyone on her kill list (even if it annoys the Faceless Men), especially…
- Cersei Lannister, whom we hope gets Westeros’ Trial of the Century.
That said, she did get a humiliating (and, as the kids say, problematic: see below) walk through the streets of King’s Landing. There is nobody who wouldn’t enjoy her getting a taste of grim, Thronesy justice, but at the hands of the antipope High Sparrow and the fanatical Faith Militant? That’s less appealing.
- We hope that Jaime Lannister stays out of his sister’s eyeline, forever.
When we left Jaime, he had just rescued his and Cersei’s daughter Myrcella from her thus-far-not-too-terrible time with the Martells. They reconciled, hugged and then she died, assassinated by the Sand Snakes. Jaime’s mission was the definition of “you had one job,” and he blew it. Cersei is going to kill him, bring him back to life, then kill him again.
- We hope Bran Stark … well, who cares?
The Bran-as-visionary plotline, his seemingly EXTREMELY LONG quest to find the three-eyed raven, has been so far removed from the central action that it’s increasingly hard to stay engaged – Daenerys over in sunny Meereen is closer to the events in King’s Landing. I am pulling for Bran to meet someone, anyone from his family, if only to apply Mr. Tossed-Out-A-Window’s powers to one of the bigger, denser plots.
- We hope Daenerys rides into battle on a freakin’ dragon because, come on, they have been teasing that since the things were hatched.
Turns out that Daenerys, who seemed like a yasss-queen-level boss for a while there, is kind of a mediocre ruler, what with the whole soaring out of Meereen, now in chaos, atop a dragon, only to end up back with the Dothraki. Oof. Get back on that horse, er, dragon, girl!
- We hope Tyrion can bring the noise.
Seriously, I don’t care where he is or what he is doing. Stuck in Meereen, on a boat with Jorah Mormont, hanging out as the King’s Hand, whatever. Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister is delivering one of television’s all-time great performances, and his sly humor works in almost any situation.
- On behalf of characters and viewers, we sincerely hope the sexual violence gets, at a minimum, dialed down.
Here are some sex crimes in “Game of Thrones,” just off the top of my head: It is implied that Ramsay’s sexual abuse and rape of Sansa is near-constant, sometimes with Theon forced to watch. Cersei was raped, as was Daenerys.
Joffrey killed one of the women he bedded by tying her naked to a bedpost and shooting crossbow bolts at her. Cersei’s sexual humiliation in last season’s finale was brutal. And this is just what I could remember. I am certain I am forgetting quite a bit and none of them resulted in much character development for anyone involved
The level of sexual violence on “Thrones” has gotten so egregious that the fansite the Mary Sue threw in the towel on the show altogether.
Last year, one fan tallied up all the sexual assaults in the books and on screen. Over the course of five seasons, there were 16 rapes or attempted rapes. (It also turns out that there are something like four times as many sex crimes in the book, which is a mighty depressing thought.)
Enough already. Enough, enough, enough.
There is a lot to love about the show: stellar acting, palace intrigue, giant wolves, sword fights, dudes wearing all black, and dragons.
There is just no narrative reason for the level of sexual violence depicted on this show. None.
“But it’s in the books!” Well, a lot of things are in the books. The books are huge. The producers make choices on what to include. They chose to include a whole lot of sexual violence (some of it by characters we are supposed to root for in the long term).
In addition, the producers chose to add an assault when Ramsay raped Sansa, combining the experiences in the books of two characters: Sansa, who is not raped in the books, and Jayne Poole, a Winterfell servant whom Ramsay marries and rapes. (I can’t believe I typed all that, either.) Again, they didn’t have to use the Sansa rape plot – they chose to.
“But ‘Thrones’ is a riff on the War of the Roses! Rape happened all the time in 15th century war! This show thrives on its realism.” The show also has dragons. I am pretty sure they weren’t in the War of the Roses. Again, the show’s producers made choices.
“But HBO pushes the content envelope!” Hey, the producers want to show explicit consensual sex, they are more than welcome.
Besides, again, the nice thing about season six is, unless they want to show us a whole mess of flashbacks, the producers are out of books to draw from. For the first time in the show’s history, it can go pretty much anywhere it wants to. And if it chooses to move away from using sexual violence as a plot engine, then everybody wins.